There Are No “Learning Styles”

Mar 28 2012 @ 6:25pm

Cedar Riener and Daniel Willingham debunk the common view that students can be divided into "auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learners:"

Students do have preferences about how they learn. Many students will report preferring to study visually and others through an auditory channel. However, when these tendencies are put to the test under controlled conditions, they make no difference—learning is equivalent whether students learn in the preferred mode or not. A favorite mode of presentation (e.g., visual, auditory, or kinesthetic) often reveals itself to be instead a preference for tasks for which one has high ability and at which one feels successful.

Michael Cholbi explains the significance of this debate:

[As Reiner and Willingham] note, to deny the significance of learning styles is not to deny the diversity of students. It simply isn't true that "if you think that the theory is wrong, you must think that all students are identical." And this in turn generates one of the pernicious effects of the learning styles meme: It leads us to neglect differences among students that actually do contribute differences in learning. Students differ in talent, ability, and intelligence; in their interests or motivations; and in their background knowledge. And some students have specific disabilities that impede various forms of learning. And it would be a disservice to students not to at least be cognizant of these differences when we design our learning environments.